HomePod marks Apple's attempt to put a stake in the smart-home assistant hardware market, an area now dominated by Amazon's growing array of Alexa-running devices, like its Echo speaker, and Google's Home gadget, which runs Google Assistant.
"We think we can do lots to make this experience much better", said Apple CEO Tim Cook at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, Calif. Apple also announced a new translation service in Siri between English, Chinese and the four most popular European languages. Probably sensibly, Apple executives spent far less time trumpeting how HomePod will work with Siri, which is still too dumb for all but basic functions like setting reminders.
Other features include the ability to pay friends using Apple Pay, Do Not Disturb while driving to help users stay more focused on the road, even more intelligence and a new voice for Siri, and new professional capabilities to Photos and Camera.
The device features what Apple calls innovative signal processing, which allows Siri to process request from afar, even with the music playing at full blast.
The Echo, released in 2015, and Google Home, released previous year, were the first entrants in a promising market.
Apple Music is also going to be more closely integrated with the watch, with automatic syncing for playlists.
At WWDC, Apple has announced a new HomePod speaker which is powered by an Apple A8 chip promised to make it sound better than any average speaker. Apple is depending on spatial awareness to achieve its goal of reinventing home music, although it's pretty hard to imagine anyone would shell out $349 for a smart speaker.
It will cost $349 when it ships in December in the US, UK and Australia. The protection is similar to what Google Home and Amazon's Echo speakers already offer.
Unlike those other smart speakers, Apple is positioning the HomePod primarily as a way to listen to and discover new songs and artists. The move means that people can now transfer money to one another using Apple Pay.
HomePod features a large, Apple-designed woofer for deep, clean bass, a custom array of seven beam-forming tweeters that provide pure high frequency acoustics with incredible directional control and powerful technologies built right in to preserve the richness and intent of the original recordings.
Dubbed High Sierra, Apple's senior vice president of software, Craig Federighi, joked that when he raised the point that the name "might be miscontrued" the team assured him it was "fully baked".
The company was expected to introduce iOS 11, the next version of the software that powers the iPhone and iPad.
At the event, a parade of executives unveiled updates to Apple's hardware, software and mobile applications, or apps, including iMac desktop computer, MacBook laptop machine, iPad, Apple Watch, iOS software operating system and App Store. If Apple wants to be more than a hardware company, it needs to break out of its profit game sometimes.
As the rumor mill had predicted, it seems that Amazon and Apple have finally settled a years-long running feud, and Amazon Prime Video will soon be available to Apple TV users.